Backed militia says it has begun siege of ISIS 'capital' Raqqa

Jane Richards
June 10, 2017

"The Syrian Democratic Forces and their Syrian Arab Coalition partners launched the offensive to unseat ISIS from its so-called "capital" of Raqqah in northern Syria, June 6", according to a statement from Operation Inherent Resolve, the name for the US -led anti-ISIS coalition.

SDF spokesman Talal Silo said the battle for Raqqa will be "fierce because Daesh [ISIS] will die to defence their so-called capital".

Islamic State militants seized the city in January 2014, transforming it into a hub for the group's leadership and its self-described caliphate.

Coalition forces will fight "side by side" with SDF troops while jets bomb ISIS targets from above, the spokesperson added. The battle for the city is expected to be extended and bloody, and could mark a major turning point in the war against the extremists.

Last night, at least 12 people were killed by heavy shelling and air strikes in the area.

Civilians trapped in the Syrian city of Raqqa risk being killed by Islamic State snipers or mines if they try to flee but could be used by the militants as human shields if they remain, a leading humanitarian aid organisation said on Tuesday.

Syrian fighters have been inching toward the gates of Raqqa from different directions since November of past year, only now reading themselves to overtake the city as a whole.

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The US last week said it had started distributing arms to the YPG to help retake Raqqa.

"The fight for Raqqa will be long and hard, but the offensive would deliver a decisive blow to the idea of ISIS as a physical caliphate", the coalition said in a statement, citing its commanding general, Lt. Gen. Steve Townsend.

US-backed rebels push for ISIL's de facto capital in Syria as government forces pound the southern city of Deraa.

On Monday, the Observatory said a coalition bombing raid killed 21 civilians as they tried to escape Raqqa by dinghy on the Euphrates River. SDF is backed by the coalition and its offensives enjoy the aerial support of the warplanes.

On Tuesday, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim reiterated Ankara's objections to arming the SDF, and warned that Turkey would retaliate to any attack by the US-backed group. "With a consecutive row of news gains, the SDF is closing ever more closer to the gates of Raqqa city, preparing to finally captured the city north of the Euphrates river now nearly entirely encircled", the outlet noted.

"We all saw the heinous attack in Manchester, England", Townsend said in the statement. But the SDF has insisted that it would hand over Raqqa to local administrative councils.

As SDF forces draw closer to Raqa, thousands of civilians flee the city and neighboring territory into makeshift camps nearby.

Other reports by VgToday

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